[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]We can rightly call ourselves the “Rock Capital of India” if that means that we play more shitty Rock music than the rest of the country combined[/pullquote] For a very long time I have suffered in silence the cliches and the re-plays, the facades of showmanship and posturing that are representative of the music scene in Shillong. The town is a crock-pot of inane and repetitive musical misadventure. This might be the outcome of the “copy-paste” outlook we have (on life in general) and which various powerful institutions – State, Church, School (often one and the same!) – continue to advocate for. We can rightly call ourselves the “Rock Capital of India” if that means that we play more shitty Rock music than the rest of the country combined. There is something for the spin-doctors and brand makers, who meet in Laitumkhrah and Police Bazaar joints, to consider – mimicry is not flattery, it is a sad substitute for lack of imagination.
My poor eyes cannot take anymore wannabe singers posing for banners and Facebook profile pictures. I am tired of the same damn music being pushed into the already corroded canals of my ears. I have been hearing the same songs ever since I was in my mother’s womb! Summer of 69, To Be With You, More Than Words, I Want To Break Free, Wind of Change, Hotel California, Bed of Roses – these songs have become Shillong’s anthems. You will definitely hear one on any given day, sometimes you might hear all being played simultaneously! Please don’t get me wrong I like Metallica, Guns N Roses, Scorpions and the rest of the old guys as much as anyone (not really) but there is just so much a person can take. Three decades of that stuff is tantamount to human rights abuse. We know them as well as any Church hymns. Is this place stuck in the eighties? It feels like a horrifying Stephen King plot. Dear “old guys”, grow up, move on, you’re all old now, get over it and let us have our peace.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Sorry, being an artist is a pretty big deal in my opinion. It involves more than mere mimicry[/pullquote]
Of course, it is not just the “oldies” that we have to aurally abuse ourselves with, the new hits and global chart-toppers are easily downloadable today. So today I can be as unamused in Shillong as anywhere else on the face of the planet. I can listen to ‘zombies’ droning inside my car, the same time an Australian does while he performs his morning ‘rituals’. Now we can force-feed our friends VH1, MTV junk all day long. We can appreciate the staged whimsicality of Lady Gaga, Minaj’s filthiness or Beyonce’s faux feminism. Yay us!
Shillong, let us not kid ourselves further. We are too conservative and scared for any thing original and ‘dangerous’. How we have tried so desperately to “appear” as something which we clearly are not. We have sold and bought into the notion that just because we have a lot of fine singers and musicians, that makes them artists. Sorry, being an artist is a pretty big deal in my opinion. It involves more than mere mimicry. The Shillong music scene is exactly like the Grammy awards on television. It is, mostly, a bunch of inbred low-graders, trying to appear profound, and applauding the achievements and accolades of their own inner circle of friends: a ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back’ kind of situation. It is ultimately not about art but economics (and even that we don’t do very well).
I am sometimes amazed (not really) that in this day and age, in particular, people still do not curate their playlists or musical tastes in Shillong. At least try to expand your sensibilities! Listening to different types of music would be a step in the right direction to moving away from the tyranny of being formulaic. That would be essential if ‘true’ artists are to emerge and succeed. We are not in want of talent just, as I said before, imagination. Take the small nation of Iceland; it has produced high-caliber artists like Emiliana Torrini, Olaf and Olafur Arnalds, Gus Gus, Sigur Ros and of course the inimitable Bjork just to bring things into perspective. The capital city of Reykjavik – where most of these lovely people would have met and engaged with each other – has a population of 50,000 people – that’s about the same as Mawlai!
But Shillong seems to be most comfortable to simply take things as they come. We are too lethargic to seek out things and that goes beyond music. We are not exploring or engaging. Is this a malaise or a disposition? Our FM stations – which are the only sources of ‘new’ music for many – seem to think that Suzanne Vega is only Tom’s Diner and Luka, or that Bob Dylan was the only one blowing in the wind (these are possibly the most fringe options we have in our playlists). Do you know that even though so many people know about Bob Dylan here, very few have actually heard of Leonard Cohen!? And I am talking about musicians I have met. So forget about the Smiths, Depeche Mode, Chelsea Wolfe, the Hinds, Kavinsky, Sarah Jaffe, Animal Collective, Parenthetical Girls, Talking Heads, whatever.
Dear Shillong, there is a small thing called a keyboard which can do magical things. This is not just about music. It starts out from that but the end point leads you to other fields.